SPME-GCMS study of the natural attenuation of aviation diesel spilled on the perennial ice cover of Lake Fryxell, Antarctica

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In January 2003, a helicopter crashed on the 5 m thick perennial ice cover of Lake Fryxell (McMurdo Dry Valleys, East Antarctica), spilling ~ 730 l of aviation diesel fuel (JP5-AN8 mixture). The molecular composition of the initial fuel was analyzed by solid phase microextraction (SPME) gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), then compared to the composition of the contaminated ice, water, and sediments collected a year after the spill. Evaporation is the major agent of diesel weathering in meltpool waters and in the ice. This process is facilitated by the light non-aqueous phase liquid properties of the aviation diesel and by the net upward movement of the ice as a result of ablation. In contrast, in sediment-bearing ice, biodegradation by both alkane- and aromatic-degraders was the prominent attenuation mechanism. The composition of the diesel contaminant in the ice was also affected by the differential solubility of its constituents, some ice containing water-washed diesel and some ice containing exclusively relatively soluble low molecular weight aromatic hydrocarbons such as alkylbenzene and naphthalene homologues. The extent of evaporation, water washing and biodegradation between sites and at different depths in the ice are evaluated on the basis of molecular ratios and the results of JP5-AN8 diesel evaporation experiment at 4 °C. Immediate spread of the aviation diesel was enhanced where the presence of aeolian sediments induced formations of meltpools. However, in absence of melt pools, slow spreading of the diesel is possible through the porous ice and the ice cover aquifer. © 2008 Elsevier B.V.

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Science of the Total Environment

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